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Letter from the editor

Projects for the production of clean energy and a healthy climate

This is the fifth special issue of the magazine Revista Fapesp in English. The first was published in 2002; the second, in early 2004; the third, in late 2005; and the fourth, in September 2007. Here, we bring together 18 of the most important articles published in our monthly issues in Portuguese between November 2007 and February 2009, in order to provide English speaking readers with an overview of Brazilian scientific and technological production at this time.

We have maintained, essentially, the same editorial model as in our domestic issues. Thus, the magazine opens with texts on scientific and technological policy, followed by articles on science, then on technology and, lastly, on the humanities. A quick-witted interview with Brazil’s former president, sociologist Fernando Henrique Cardoso (page 18), and the issue’s cover story (page 12) precede this set of articles. Cardoso addresses the current stage of the debate on environmental issues in Brazil and the world, stressing its progress and the rising acceptance of the notion that global climate change is a real and serious problem for man. Incidentally, on the subject of the climate, this magazine has another article on page 28, which concerns the FAPESP Program of Research into Global Climate Change. This initiative, launched in late August 2008 along with a public call for researchers in several scientific fields, aims at expanding Brazilian contribution to the study of global climate change.

As for the cover feature, one can only say that it is based on yet one more initiative of the FAPESP foundation, the FAPESP Program for Research into Bionergy (Bioen), established on July 3, 2008. Placing a wager on this daring project in a country that has accrued, for decades, many advantages in the production of first-generation ethanol from the fermentation of sugarcane sucrose means overcoming challenges to improvements in productivity, while also pursuing opportunities to develop second-generation ethanol from cellulose. In sum, this is a research program designed to further the basic science and technological development of power generation from biomass.

As for the articles on relevant scientific research and technological innovation in a range of fields published in this issue, I would like to stress that about half of them concern projects conducted by São Paulo state research institutions with FAPESP support, whereas the other half consists of projects developed in other Brazilian states. This ratio reflects the country’s reality: São Paulo accounts for some 50% of the science produced in Brazil.

Of the total of 11 articles in the science and technology sections, I would like to highlight, first, the one on a major study published in 2008, which explained the functioning of an essential protein for the protection of nerve cells, the cellular prion in its healthy form, i.e. the same protein that, in its defective form, causes Mad Cow Disease, the fourth known form of the Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (page 40). In second place, I would like to draw our readers’ attention to the article on the range of new knowledge and new technological competencies that Brazil’s progress in oil exploration in the pre-salt layer demands.

To close, I must explain that the fundamental objective of Pesquisa FAPESP, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in October 2009 with a circulation of 37 thousand copies, is to disseminate awareness of Brazilian scientific production with propriety and rigor, though tirelessly pursuing the indispensable clarity of all journalistic publications. This magazine, which can also be found on the Internet ( in Portuguese, English and Spanish, perfectly fits the mission of FAPESP, a government foundation established in 1962 to provide support for scientific and technological research in the State of São Paulo, as this mission also includes disseminating research objectives, processes and results.